Subject: Activists criticise proposed Obama security appointment
Activists criticise proposed Obama security appointment
ABC Radio Australia 08/12/2008 - President elect Barack Obama is expected to appoint the retired Admiral, Dennis C. Blair as Director of National Intelligence.
The mooted appointment has won some plaudits but been greeted with dismay by activist groups. One of those, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network or ETAN has urged the new administration not to appoint Admiral Blair, citing his years as Pacific Commander, when ETAN says he actively worked to reinstate military assistance and deepen ties to Indonesia's military despite its ongoing human rights violations in East Timor and consistent record of impunity.
Presenter: Sen Lam Speaker: John M. Miller, National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Actiion Network
Listen: <abc.net.au/ra/programguide/stories/m1678525.asx> Windows Media
CQ Politics Spy Talk blog
Obama Needs to Pick His Uber-Spook First, Before Filling CIA Job
By Jeff Stein | December 11, 2008 10:30 PM
One of the smartest guys writing about the intelligence world, for my money, is David Ignatius, the prolific Washington Post columnist and novelist of Middle East intrigue.
Ignatius generally argues that the CIA needs to be chopped up and put back together as a lean, mean spying machine, maybe even shipped somewhere far from the furnace of Washington politics.
But it's the Directorate of National Intelligence that needs attention first, he wrote Thursday.
Sure, it was a mistake, it turned out "like a lumpy pudding." But "yet another reorganization would drive everyone bonkers."
You might say it's the spy world's version of General Motors: too big to fail, but soon to be under new management.
It needs "an experienced, first-rate manager" to run it, Ignatius wrote, somebody like ... Warren Buffett.
Somebody, in the words of one of those ubiquitous "former top intelligence officials," who is "less interested in briefing the president in the morning than in ensuring that the community has the best tools and processes to make the PDB [President's Daily Brief] a world-class product."
But first, the incoming president can help himself immensely if he devotes some bandwidth to figuring out what he wants U.S. intelligence to do.
"More than any part of the government," Ignatius wrote, "the intelligence community needs good management, but that requires more clarity about the mission."
The problem is, nobody wants the DNI job. One intelligence professional under consideration for a top post told me that he was praying that the phone wouldn't ring with Obama on the other end asking him to take it.
The pool of eligible candidates for it, meanwhile, has been steadily evaporating.
CIA veterans don't want yet another military man at the DNI helm (and certainly not another uniform running their own agency).
Human rights activists are blackballing anyone remotely connected to post-9/11 renditions and interrogation methods.
Antiwar and civil rights critics are evil-eyeing anyone connected to the faulty Iraq WMD intelligence or warrantless wiretaps.
And now it appears that official contacts with nasty governments is grounds for strangling a nominee in his cradle.
Admiral Dennis C. Blair, for example, has been one of the top names in the "mentioned" list for the DNI post.
But just the possibility that the former Pacific Commander could be tapped has roused the ire of human rights activists in Indonesia, according to Radio Australia.
Blair is accused of cozying up to the Indonesia regime while it was slaughtering people in East Timor.
"The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, or ETAN, has urged the new administration not to appoint Admiral Blair, citing his years as Pacific Commander, when ETAN says he actively worked to reinstate military assistance and deepen ties to Indonesia's military despite its ongoing human rights violations in East Timor and consistent record of impunity," Radio Australia <radioaustralia.net.au/connectasia/stories/200812/s2440394.htm> reported.
Isthat enough to drop-kick Blair's chances? Just the hint of such trouble has already torpedoed John Brennan and jeopardized the chances of a number of candidates for top intelligence posts, including at least two on the Associated Press's list of frontrunners for the CIA job: Steve Kappes, the agency's current No. 2, John McLaughlin, an interim CIA chief after George Tenet resigned, and Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., who now heads a House Homeland Security subcommittee on intelligence.
So the list keeps expanding.
Not in the A.P.'s top five, but mine, is a senior CIA veteran who could probably escape such censure: Jack Devine, a former head of the agency's clandestine service.
Qualification number one: he left the CIA before the Sept. 11 attacks, so he can't be tarred with faulty Iraq intelligence, renditions or water boarding.
Two: He dissed the Iraq invasion, calling it a diversion from other critical missions.
"Iraq has been a great drain on the intelligence world," he said in 2004. "The notion that you could support a military initiative in Iraq, combat worldwide terrorism, and cover other critical issues was wrong."
Three: He's been where Obama needs experienced help. Early on he ran the CIA's covert program to oust the Russians from Afghanistan.
Four: He's given a lot of thought to what's wrong with the DNI, saying it "has become what intelligence professionals feared it would: an unnecessary bureaucratic contraption with an amazingly large staff."
Congress, he urged, needs to take another look at the monster it created.
Just don't send him there. Jack Devine belongs at CIA.